I am looking out of my office window at Earl K. Long Hospital. I see an old, dilapidated building that is scheduled to close its doors on April 15. My heart sees, however, a building where individuals took care of many of my loved ones for years. There is an aching in my stomach I will attempt to explain.

When I was a teenager living in the projects in Scotlandville, being raised by my mother, I informed her that if I got sick, to please not take me to EKL. She politely informed me that if I got sick she will be taking me directly to EKL, and that I could not do anything about it. She also informed me that in the summer of 1974, a surgeon named Dr. Lee operated on my brother after an Army physician discovered a problem during his enlistment physical. Before the surgery, my mother was feeling a little nervous about the whole situation.

My mother was employed by Dr. Jack Loupe as a housekeeper. His mother-in-law told my mother that the same physician that will be performing the surgery on my brother was the same surgeon who operated on her a month or so earlier at one of the private hospitals. After that conversation, my mother felt comfort in knowing that some of the same physicians working and taking care of the wealthy white folks were serving the poor people at EKL. Needless to say, the surgery went well and my brother is in good health at 57 years of age.

It will be a sad day to see the doors of this charity hospital closed. Many say that hundreds, even thousands, will die because of this closure. I beg to differ. For many years the poor had to fight to stay alive. This is just another fight.

So we are calling upon the churches and the community to assist us in keeping the people who are/were being served by Earl K. Long alive. By creating committees to check on the elderly, disabled and the uninformed individuals to make sure that they have transportation and the information needed to keep them in contact with their physicians/health-care providers and/or find new ones. This is just another opportunity for us to be our brothers’ keeper.

Let us not die because this system, meaning the folk who are supposed to be looking out for our well- being, failed to see this coming. Let’s rise to the occasion and live and not die!

What’s in your belly? Is it fear? Is it disappointment? Or, is it hope or expectation for a better tomorrow? What’s your story?

Mary Hamilton

assistant business manager

Baton Rouge